During the COVID-19 outbreak, schooling has been severely disrupted. More than 1.6 billion children and teenagers worldwide were affected by school closures. Although many education systems have restored regular, in-person learning, over 695 million children and teens continue to suffer partial or complete school closures. According to a survey, 55 percent of primary and 65 percent of middle school pupils were still enrolled in non-traditional learning modes one year into the pandemic. Non-traditional learning, on the other hand, will not remain the norm for long as immunization rates rise and case counts fall.
A school year has begun, which means that some children may experience intense fear and separation anxiety. Even though it is typical for any child to experience some back-to-school nervousness, there is a significant difference between a child anxious about the new school year and one whose anxiety is rigid enough to require help from a professional. Many students across the country are finally beginning to learn in person again. After being cooped up at home for so long, having these avenues can be a welcome reprieve — but they can also be intimidating to young kids who are hesitant to leave their parents and are unaware of what to anticipate.
As the infection rate continues to drop across the United States, families are looking forward to returning to traditional education in the fall. But, many students, especially those prone to anxiety, may feel conflicted about this adjustment. Although preliminary evidence indicates that school disruptions resulted in feelings of isolation, worse mood, higher stress, and learning impairment, some may have benefited. If you are concerned that your child will struggle to transition to school, here are some ideas to help them.
Validate their feelings
Assist your child in identifying the source of their stress. Assure them that having worries is normal. Give them your undivided attention, and make a point of meeting with them regularly at a specific time and place to voice their concerns. Young toddlers and some children with special needs may lack the words to communicate their emotions. Look for behaviors that signal anxiety, such as sobbing, impatience, stomach cramps, or neediness. Parents must recognize and validate their children's sentiments.
Try to keep your fears or anxieties at bay. It is acceptable to admit your worries; however, use this as a chance to demonstrate healthy coping strategies.
Empathize but be firm with setting expectations
When children ignore the things that make them uneasy, they miss out on learning that they have likely overstated the threat and undervalued their capacity to cope with the circumstance. This resistance can lead to more significant anxiety and the feeling that the only way to find comfort is to continue avoiding their worries. Anxious youngsters and teenagers may refuse to leave the house in the morning. In return, it will be vital to demonstrate empathy for their sentiments while also setting clear expectations for how they will tackle their anxieties. If your child is reluctant to leave the house in the morning, you can support their concerns while keeping clear expectations that they attend school.
Highlight the positives
To divert your child's mind away from their fears, ask them to tell you a few things they like about school. Even the most apprehensive teenager can usually find something they appreciate about it. Perhaps they have made a new buddy, are interested in a particular subject, or are excited to work on an art project. Looking for the pros can help to make the difficulties appear less overpowering.
Establish a routine
Consistency and routine are beneficial to anxious youngsters, especially during uncertain times. In the weeks leading up to the opening of school, establish a new daily routine. Set sleep and wake times earlier and ensure your child starts the day with breakfast and good hygiene. Set a device curfew at the beginning of the year to create structure and guarantee that your child gets a decent night's sleep.
Prep their homework space at home
While this may not be much of a priority, designating an area solely just for them to do their studying and schoolwork at home may ease them up and shift their focus to keeping themselves busy. This could help take their minds off worrying about school or anything else that makes them apprehensive about going. At the same time, reinforce encouragement, educate them properly about safety protocols, and remind them about the good things. It would be better if you let them make choices such as picking the color of their desk chair or introducing them to new technology like ergonomic mouse and keyboard. Sit-stand desks will not only seem hip and cool for them, but it also benefits overall health both for adults and children in terms of doing various movements while working behind the desk. Take them shopping with you, whether at a physical store or online. This could make them excited and sidetracked from being anxious about going to school in person.
Talk about school but not too much
As the start of school looms, you can openly discuss your child's timetable, but try not to bring that up too frequently. Don't remind them repeatedly for weeks on end, or they'll become obsessed with it. Every child is unique. Aside from discussing or reading about it, one method to plan for the school is to arrange little playdates with other children who will be joining your child's school. They can look forward to seeing the few buddies on the first day this way.
Be familiar with the school rules
If masks are required or voluntary, go over all of the requirements with your child before the first day of school. Some schools have implemented new regulations or protocols, which you should go over with your child before returning. Families and children should strive to be adaptable as schools determine which protocols are best for their district.
Communicate with the teacher
It is critical to communicate with the teachers and administrators who have assisted your child throughout distance learning. Prepare facts to send to your child's teacher and think about writing them from the child's point of view. Inquire with the teacher about the drop-off procedure. You don't want your kids to be surprised if you arrive at school and need to drop them off at the main door rather than their classroom. Check if you can schedule a quick tour of the school ahead of time, outlining the rules for distance, hand cleaning, and so on.
Keep checking in with your child during the school year and answer any questions with their teachers. While change is for the better, changes can be stressful. Your child will ultimately acclimatize to school, just as they did to learn from home at the onset of the pandemic.